49ers' Dante Pettis finally feels 'explosive' again after slow preseason

49ers' Dante Pettis finally feels 'explosive' again after slow preseason

SANTA CLARA – Kyle Shanahan spent a portion of his media session Thursday expressing his delight with this group of 49ers, insisting that the next 10 days, when he and general manager John Lynch trim the roster to 53 players, will be the most difficult yet.

“This is different than every other year where we’ve had to where getting down to this final 53 is going to be a lot more stressful for John and I than it has been in the past,” Shanahan said, referring to his first two seasons as coach.

“Usually, you’re excited to do it a little bit more, because we already know who it is and we’re hoping, we think there’s five guys on someone else’s roster that we can add to our 53. We know we have more than 53 players now and we’ve also got a lot of guys out, too.”

Shanahan seemed particularly pleased with the potential of his receiving corps, with its broad combination of sizes and shapes and experience levels.

“We’ve got some guys who need to understand and get more confident in the physical part of the game,” Shanahan said. “And then we’ve got some guys who have no issue with the physical part of the game. They’ve got to be able to chill out a little bit and quit trying to kill people and execute.”

Though Shanahan avoided identifying which players fit into which category, it has become apparent the coaching staff craves more assertiveness from second-year wideout Dante Pettis.

With rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd going full blast, Pettis looks to be cruising. He seems to realize it and believes he has hit his personal restart button.

“I finally feel like I’m now getting back to how I should be playing -- explosive and consistent,” Pettis told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I got off to kind of a slow start, but I feel like I’m picking it up.”

Pettis’ ability is not in question. He inherited wheels from his father, Gary Pettis, who stole 354 bases over 10 big league seasons as a center fielder for four different teams. Young Pettis is an inch or two taller than his 6-foot father and outweighs him by 30 pounds.

What seems to be in question is Pettis’ commitment and ambition. He is a free spirit, with varied interests beyond football. He enjoys the game but doesn’t inject it into his veins as, say, Jerry Rice did  -- and as coaches like to see.

If that were the case, Pettis might already have secured a starting spot. He started last week at Denver and was targeted once, with Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass knocked down at the line of scrimmage.

The arc of Pettis’ career at the University of Washington shows improvement every season, from 17 catches as a freshman, to 30 as a sophomore, 53 as a junior and 63 in his senior season, during which he also returned four punts for touchdowns. His nine touchdowns on punt returns as a Huskie is the NCAA career record.

It also is evidence to the explosiveness referred to earlier. It was one of the factors that prompted the 49es to draft him in the second round (No. 44 overall) 16 months ago.

Pettis played 12 games (seven starts) as a rookie, recording 27 catches for 467 yards and five touchdowns. He battled injuries and was inactive for three games last October with a knee injury.

He also provided a glimpse of what’s possible last Dec. 2 at Seattle, with five catches, for 129 yards and two touchdowns. That’s the kind of production the 49ers are looking for from a starter.

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“You want to put good stuff on tape in the preseason,” Pettis said. “But the last game, I got like 10 plays. So, it’s not too big of a sample size to get a lot of good plays. But the coaches know that, too.

“Since I’m young, I have to show them.”

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

How adjusting Fred Warner's workload has unleashed his speed for 49ers

BRADENTON, Fla. — For the second time in as many months, a member of the 49ers has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Month.

Linebacker Fred Warner took home the title for November after Nick Bosa had the honor for October. During the month, Warner tallied 44 total tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. 

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes altering the linebacker’s responsibilities has given Warner an opportunity to play with more speed. 

“We’ve taken a lot off his plate so he can just go line up and play,” Saleh said Thursday. “Putting more of the onus on making sure that guys lineup and go play. We were playing some of those read-option teams, the Arizona teams, we’re asking him to make a lot of checks and see if he can get us in the perfect defense. 

“While he’s busy trying to do that, he’s not able to focus on his job. Even though he was getting everyone lined up and everything was perfect, it’s just not fair for him. So, to take a little bit off his plate so he can go ahead and go play, I think that’s really been the difference.”

Saleh is not alone in praising Warner. Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman also has been impressed with the young linebacker's work ethic and growth in his second season. The fact that Warner didn’t play inside until he was with the 49ers makes his accomplishments even more significant. 

“The inside linebacker already has so much on his plate,” Sherman said. “Being able to take some of that off—there was one game I think he had six calls in one play. Where if this guy moves here, he has to readjust the line. He has to tell the DBs this, he has to tell this guy this and sometimes that just doesn’t allow him to play fast.

“He’s getting everybody else lined up to play fast but he can’t play fast. He has to think about all these calls, all these adjustments. Maybe you put a little more strain on the rest of the guys. You spread out the strain and it allows him to play fast and for us to be a better defense.”

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Now in his second year, Warner sees things developing on the field more quickly. No matter the workload given to him by Saleh, the BYU product has been able to adjust.  

“I think as the year has gone on, he has kind of started to realize what’s too much, what’s too little,” Warner said. “I agree completely. Ever since kind of the midway point of the season, I think he has lined it up for me to just go out and play fast.”  

49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments


49ers' Richard Sherman, Dee Ford speak out on Tim Ryan's comments

BRADENTON , Fla. -- Following radio broadcaster Tim Ryan's one-game suspension for his comments regarding Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, several 49ers players spoke out, believing there was no malicious intent behind what the analyst said. 

Known as being outspoken on most topics, Richard Sherman did not mince words about what Ryan said. He even mentioned that the commentator had personally apologized to several players while at the team hotel after the announcement of his suspension. 

“I know Tim personally, and I listened to the dialogue and saw it, read it,” Sherman said. “Honestly, I wasn’t as outraged as everybody else. I understand how it can be taken in a certain context and be offensive to some. 

“But if you’re saying, ‘Hey, this is a brown ball, they are wearing dark colors, and he has a brown arm,’ honestly sometimes we were having trouble seeing it on film. He’s making a play fake and sometimes he’s swinging his arm really fast and you’re like, does he have the ball? And you look up and [Mark] Ingram is running it.

“So it was technically a valid point but the way he said it, you can always phrase things better. I’ve had a relationship with him since I’ve gotten here and he’s never been anything other than a great guy and a professional and a guy who takes his job seriously.” 

Edge rusher Dee Ford expressed similar sentiments about Ryan’s comments, and confirmed that the two had spoken since the incident. 

“He walked up to me earlier and before he even said anything I told him. ‘I got your back.’” Ford said. “I already knew the story. The words kind of got taken out of context, and of course, now he knows he could have used better judgment with his words. But we got his back. I knew what he was trying to say. 

“This era we live in, it is just what it is, but I know him personally. I speak to him a lot. He loves to watch the D-line and there’s not one -- type of bone -- you know what bone I’m talking about, in his body. So I got his back, so put that to bed really fast.”  

49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also spoke about Ryan’s nature, not believing that there was negative intent behind his comments. 

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“I’ve always, as a human being, tried to judge people on how I interact with them,” Saleh said. “And I love the man. He’s a very genuine human being and he knows he made a mistake and he’s just trying to move this on as quickly as possible.” 

Dennis Brown will be on the call with Greg Papa during Ryan’s absence for Sunday’s matchup against the Saints in the Superdome.